It was ten years ago, but Marlon Moctezuma remembers the night all too well. He was in trouble. He had made dinner reservations with his then-girlfriend at 8:00 p.m, but didn’t get out of work until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. The best way to quell her anger, he thought at the time was to bring her flowers. He hopped in a cab and drove around Manhattan until he found a little bodega that sold them.
But it didn’t work. “When I got to the apartment, she was really upset just because I spent so much money and I was so late and the flowers were like halfway dead anyway,” he said. “And I said, ‘I wish there was a flower delivery service that would deliver at any given time’.”
Now there is—and Moctezuma runs it. Moctezuma, an IT specialist, found a way to combine technology and floristry with The After Hours Flowers, which he runs out of a basement office at the Hotel Alexander on West 94th Street with a partner, Cedric Hubert. The After Hours Flowers has blossomed over the last five years as New York City’s only 24-hour flower shop.
The service allows customers to order at any hour of the day (or night) to deliver at any time. On Valentine’s Days, requests can be submitted up to 10 p.m., with guaranteed same-day delivery in Manhattan and select neighborhoods in the outer boroughs. “Right now our fastest delivery within the five boroughs is two hours, which is pretty fast compared to other places,” Moctezuma said of his rush delivery option. “But I want to cut it to like half an hour where you call and you get what you want instantly.”
It is estimated that Americans spend approximately $1.9 billion on flowers alone on Valentine’s Day, with the most popular flower being the red rose. By 4:00 pm on the day before Valentine’s Day, almost all the shop’s red roses were out, so Hubert and Moctezuma were waiting for another shipment—1,500 roses to be delivered in half an hour to keep up with the high demand.
According to Hubert, preparing for Valentine’s Day consists of round-the-clock prep work that began on Wednesday, with thousands of flowers being ordered every day. So many completed orders had filled up in their main room that some had spilled into the workroom.
Meanwhile, After Hours Flowers was facing more challenges just to keep up with deliveries. The city had been hit with a with record low temperatures, with a prediction of single digits coming and wind chills that will make it feel like minus-25 degrees. Although the cold was helping to keep the flowers fresh, the partners would have to be careful so the flowers don’t freeze, or they could be ruined. “Flowers like to be kept between 34 and 38 degrees,” said Hubert. “But obviously 34 degrees is close to 32 degrees, so we constantly have to keep an eye to make sure the temperature does not drop.”
Moctezuma points to some of his shop’s amenities aside from quick delivery that he says separates The After Hours Flowers from other florists. One example is that employees handwrite all of the notes that come with the bouquets. “We’re really trying to create atmosphere to really be in touch with our customers,” Moctezuma said.
On Valentine’s Day, the business will increase its workforce to 20 people—manning telephones, taking orders, and arranging bouquets, while 12 people— two per car—will take about 70 deliveries each.
To say Moctezuma and Hubert are busy even well before Valentine’s Day itself is an understatement. In a 30-minute period from 5:30 to 6:00 pm on Saturday, the business got six orders. And as Hubert spoke to this reporter, at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, he had to interrupt and take three calls for orders and one pick-up.
Because the shop does not have a traditional storefront, Hubert and Moctezuma don’t get too many walk-ins. But on this particular Saturday, four people stop by in a two-hour period. One of them is Jack Ross, a Columbia College student heading to Brooklyn. “I was on my way to see my girlfriend and I was just about to get on the train and I thought, ‘Maybe I should be bringing flowers’,” he said.